The Circuit des 24 Heures, also known as Circuit de la Sarthe, located near Le Mans, France, is a semi-permanent race course most famous as the venue for the 24 Hours of Le Mans auto race. The track uses local roads that remain open to the public most of the year.The circuit, in its present configuration, is 13.629 km (8.469 mi) long, making it one of the longest circuits in the World.
Le Mans is a race where up to 85% of the time is spent on full throttle, meaning immense stress on engine and drivetrain components. However, the times spent reaching maximum speed also mean tremendous wear on the brakes and suspension as cars must slow from over 200 mph (322 km/h) to around 65 mph (105 km/h) for the end of Mulsanne in a short distance. Downforce in the era of Group C cars helped braking to some degree but presently cars are tending towards low downforce to seek higher speeds in the face of power limiting regulations.
The track, which basically was a triangle from Le Mans down south to Mulsanne, northwest to Arnage, and back north to Le Mans, has undergone many modifications over the years, with CIRCUIT N° 14 being in use since 2007. Even with the modifications put in place over the years, the Sarthe circuit is still known for being very fast; with average speeds of 145+ mph (233 km/h) being achieved by the prototypes.
The chicanes were added in 1990 also because the FIA decreed it would no longer sanction a circuit which had a straight longer than 2 km. These were named after sponsors PlayStation and Michelin. The fastest qualifying lap average speed dropped only from 249 to 243 km/h (151 mph) in 1993, and it rose up to 247 in 2008, not far from the all time best of 250 and 251 set by the Porsche 917 and 956. Regarding the lap record in the race itself, 2008 saw the fastest ever.
Bugatti Circuit is a permanent race track located within Circuit des 24 Heures, named after Ettore Bugatti. The circuit uses a part of the larger circuit and a separate, purpose-built section. The sections of track on the Bugatti Circuit that are on the Circuit des 24 Heures include the Ford Chicane at the end of the lap, the pit complex, and the straight where the Dunlop Tyres bridge is located. At this point in the overlapping section of the tracks there is a left right sweep that was added for motorcycle safety in 2002.
Vehicles turning to the left continue onto the Circuit des 24 Heures, toward Tertre Rouge and Mulsanne, vehicles turning to the right will continue the Bugatti Circuit.The track is home base for Pescarolo Sport, founded by famous French driver Henri Pescarolo. The circuit also hosts the 24 Hours of Le Mans motorcycle race, and a round of the MotoGP Championship. The circuit also holds French motor club races and in the past has hosted rounds of the International Formula 3000 Championship and DTM (German Touring Car series).
Circuit de la Sarthe
- ACO / FIA WEC
- 24 Hours of Le Mans
- FIM MotoGP
- French Grand Prix
- 24 Hours of Le Mans Moto
- Surface: Tarmac
- Length: 13.629 km (8.469 mi)
- Turns: 38
- Lap record: 3:19.074 (Loïc Duval, Team Oreca Matmut Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, 2010, LMP1)
- Surface: Tarmac
- Length: 4.273 km (2.655 mi)
- Turns: 10